World Cup Round of 16: Pancho Villa’s Army celebrates as Mexico advances

June 27, 2018 // Arizona Republic // Atreya Verma

For the last 20 minutes of the two early World Cup matches on Wednesday, Mexico fans pinned their hopes of advancing to a team on the other side of the planet.

At the Native Grill and Wings in Laveen, where Pancho Villa’s Army had established its home base for all Mexico games, nearly 200 El Tri fans turned their attention to the Germany-South Korea game after Mexico fell behind 3-0 in the 74th minute against Sweden.

The TVs were quickly switched over to Fox Sports 1, and every chance the South Koreans created in the offensive third was met with echoing “KOREA” chants.

Finally, in the 92nd minute, a deflected ball off a corner kick made its way into the back of the net and the bar erupted in cheers. Adrian Zarata, who helped organize the event, found his life-size version of Pistol Pete’s hat and marched around the celebrations screaming into his megaphone.


Atreya Verma/ The Republic


With Korea’s 2-0 win, defending champion Germany was eliminated from the World Cup, ensuring Mexico’s place in the Round of 16.

For Mexico fans who had made their way to Laveen as early as 6 a.m., it was simply about making sure El Tri advanced. Many of the fans had taken the day off – some even called in sick – to ensure they could watch the match with Pancho Villa’s Army.

“I’m sick, man. I’m very sick,” Carlos Alfaro said with a wry smile while watching the match.

Amid the celebration, local businesses have realized that Pancho Villa’s Army’s reach into the soccer fanbase is expansive in the Phoenix area and they are trying to capitalize. Phoenix Rising FC community relations representative Heber Valenzuela was on hand for the festivities to promote the growing Rising club.

“It’s important for us to connect with the community. We are privileged to be in a community that is very diverse,” Valenzuela said. “One of our goals is to have a club that is for the people, therefore we have to go out there and build relationships through watch parties and events.”

Valenzuela said the club has been working with PVA for almost four years, since the last World Cup. Back then, the Rising were known as Arizona United but the relationship has endured. As the Rising continue to advance their bid to become the next MLS expansion team, it will be crucial to cultivate the passion of El Tri fans.

Shawn Goodwin, a representative from Budweiser, was on hand to help promote a new beer called Estrella Jalisco into the local market. The company has a partnership with the national branch of PVA.

Estrella Jalisco has been a big success in the Los Angeles market and was introduced to Cardinals fans this past football season at University of Phoenix Stadium, according to Goodwin. He brought T-shirts, koozies and mugs with him to give away to the soccer-hungry fan base.

The crowd on hand was not the biggest PVA has organized since the start of the 2018 World Cup as the opening-match upset against Germany ended with an overcapacity building. The local fire department was called to settle some raucous fans that had set off smoke bombs to celebrate that win.

On Wednesday, Mexico lost but fans celebrated with the same fervor. In the Round of 16, El Tri will play Brazil, the first-place finisher in Group E. That game will be Monday at 7 a.m. (Arizona time).

Zarate, a captain in PVA, isn’t afraid of the talented Brazilian side.

“We want Brazil,” he yelled before diving into a crowd of fans celebrating next to the bar.

Pancho Villa’s Army brings together Mexico fans for Laveen watch party

June 23, 2018 // Arizona Republic // Atreya Verma

There were at least two curly-haired, bandana-wearing men cheering every time Mexico made a save against South Korea during Saturday’s World Cup match.

One was Guillermo Ochoa, the Mexican national team goalkeeper who was manning the net in Sochi while the South Koreans peppered shots in his direction.

The other was an Ochoa look-alike at a Pancho Villa’s Army watch party at Native Grill and Wings in Laveen.

Dressed in a full football kit down to the cleats, the man was often raised into the air with a bottle of Modelo in his hand and would take a lap through the crowd as soon as an “O-cho-a” chant broke out.

The event was organized by Pancho Villa’s Army, the largest fan group of the Mexican national team in the United States. Founded in Austin, the group has battalions in almost every major city in the Southwest, including Phoenix.

For Saturday’s game, the bar was filled to near-capacity nearly 45 minutes before kickoff and remained that way until the final whistle signaled a 2-1 win for Mexico.

Among the more than 300 Mexico fans gathered , the Ochoa doppelganger might not have been the most passionate supporter.

Ingrid Leija, 31, knew Native was supposed to open at 7 a.m., an hour before kickoff, so she showed up at 6:20.

“Last match we (got) here at 7:30 a.m., it was full,” Leija said. Not taking any chances, she showed up early with her friends to make sure they got a booth.

Cecilia Gomez, one of the national leaders of Pancho Villa’s Army, estimates the organization has between three and four thousand members and is growing rapidly, having just started a battalion in Louisiana.

PVA’s Phoenix battalion has hosted World Cup parties for Mexico supporters since 2010 but has seen its biggest turnouts this year with casual supporters who simply heard about the event through friends or Facebook also joining in.

PVA even sent supporters from Phoenix to Russia to support the team, according to Adrian Zarate, a PVA captain.

After Mexico upset defending world champion Germany last weekend, some supporters set off smoke bombs inside the bar.

To temper the chaos and ensure everyone was able to still have a good time on Saturday, the owners of Native brought in extra servers and security to man the doors. The end result? A lot of happy El Tri supporters and a packed, but enjoyable bar scene.

Valley fans celebrate historic Mexico-Germany soccer match

June 17, 2018 // FOX 10 // Marcy Jones

LAVEEN, Ariz. – Valley fans started early this morning, many of them waking up before the sun to celebrate game 10 of the 2018 World Cup.

The Germany – Mexico match-up was made extra exciting by the fact that Germany won the World Cup last tournament. Mexico fans, however were confident early in the game.

Fans enjoyed good company, good food and good drinks all morning long at places like Native Grill and Wings in Laveen.

Of course, to cheer for a team, it’s important to look the part – vendors set up shop to make sure fans were decked out.

When Lozano scored the only point of the game, the crowd went wild. With spirits riding high, hopes that Mexico can take the World Cup title were even higher.

The Top 100 Food and Restaurant Franchises of 2018

June 14, 2018 // NewsTimes // Tracy Stapp Herold

In the franchising world, food still reigns supreme. Almost a quarter of the 1,023 companies that applied for this year’s Franchise 500 were food-based franchises, and half of the companies that ranked in the top 10 were quick-service restaurants. Some of the oldest and largest franchises in the world are food-based, and new ones arrive on the scene every year, ready to capitalize on the latest trends, like build-your-own pizza and poke bowls.

That said, food franchises can be some of the most challenging to build — with higher capital costs and more complicated operations than many other industries. But they can also be some of the most rewarding. They’re particularly popular with franchisees interested in multi-unit ownership. So, if you’ve got a taste for food-based franchises — whether it’s one unit or 100 — start with our list of the top 200. You’ll find them on the following pages, ranked within their respective categories (such as coffee, hamburgers and Mexican food).

These rankings are based on the score each company received when evaluated by our Franchise 500® formula, which considers more than 150 data points in the areas of costs and fees, size and growth, franchisee support, brand strength and financial strength and stability. But please understand, our list is not intended as a recommendation of any particular company. It’s vital that you do your own research to find the franchise that’s right for you (and that means more than just trying the food). Read the company’s legal documents, consult with an attorney and an accountant, and talk to existing and former franchisees.

#13 Native Grill and Wings Franchising 
Startup cost: $998K – $2.6M
Total franchises/co.-owned: 34/2

To read the full article click here.

The Best Places to Eat, Drink, and Watch the World Cup

June 14, 2018 // Phoenix New Times // Benjamin Leatherman, Audrey Kruse

The World Cup, the globe’s biggest sporting event, kicks off today. Though the U.S. squad shit the bed and will not be playing, that doesn’t mean we should skip all the great matches and booze to be enjoyed. (Hey, at least we get an automatic qualification in 2026.) Here are a bunch of places to relax with friends, throw a few back, and watch the beautiful game’s greatest tournament in style.

Native Grill & Wings in southeast Phoenix.

Native Grill & Wings
5020 West Baseline Road, #123
The Laveen location of the local wing joint chain will be the spot where the Phoenix chapter of Pancho Villa’s Army (the official fan club for Mexico’s fútbol squad) will be partying during World Cup 2018. Their first celebration will take place starting at 6:30 a.m. on Sunday, June 17, when Mexico takes on Germany. Drink specials and a “Mexican breakfast bonanza” will be offered and a raffle, prize giveaways, and live music are also planned. Similar affairs will be held at the location during the team’s upcoming matches.

To read the full article click here.

13 places to watch the 2018 World Cup in metro Phoenix

June 14, 2018 // // Elizabeth Backo

Soccer fans in Phoenix might need to make a few adjustments to their sleep schedules for the next month.

The 2018 FIFA World Cup is set to start in Moscow on Thursday, June 14, and the time-zone difference is not too convenient for Arizona fans. The earliest game kicks off at 3 a.m. local time. The latest starts at noon.

For the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, in which Germany beat Argentina in extra time in the final, Phoenix fans only had to account for a time difference of a few hours.

“A 10-hour time difference is a massive thing,” said Tony Wimberely, a manager at George and Dragon English Restaurant and Pub.

But despite the early start times, he still anticipates the bar will be packed for all of the Mexico and England games. He expects people to line up outside at 3 a.m. for England’s 5 a.m. game against Panama on June 24.


A few places in town will open their doors earlier than usual for soccer lovers. A handful of others will show games during regular business hours and have specials for the matches. So, if you are not traveling to Moscow for the World Cup, here is where you can watch in the Valley.

Native Grill and Wings

If you are looking to watch any of Mexico’s games, Native Grill and Wings is the place to go. This location will be the headquarters for Pancho Villa’s Army, a group that supports the Mexico national team.

On Father’s Day, the location will open at 7 a.m. for the Mexico game. Viewers can purchase a bowl of menudo or a traditional breakfast for $5. Tall Estrella beer can be purchased for $4.

Details: 5020 W Baseline Road, Phoenix. (602) 237-9068,

To read the full article click here.

Native Grill & Wings Introduces Lunchtime-Focused Menu

June 07, 2018 // FSR Magazine // Industry News

Native Grill & Wings, an award-winning Arizona-based restaurant chain known for its wing flavors that guests can order by the individual wing, has recently debuted a new lunch menu filled with lunchtime promotions to provide customers with value driven meal options.

Native’s lunch menu features the Big Ol’ Slice lunch special, a deal that lets customers can order a larger than normal slice of pizza and choice of soda or tea for only $5.00 at participating locations. In addition to their Big Ol’ Slice special, Native introduces the mix & match lunch option allowing customers to choose an entrée and add as many sides of their favorite appetizers to pair.

“We are thrilled to debut our revamped lunch menu as it is customizable to every individual guest,” says CEO Dan Chaon. “We want them to be able to enjoy a filling, delicious lunchtime meal at a value-driven price point. At Native we’re always trying to find new ways to say “thank you” to our customers for all of the success we’ve garnered over the years. Creating menus and promos that give them the best bang for their buck is part of that.”

The lunch menu also highlights the return of Native fan favorites – jalapeño puffs and curly fries. After being featured on Native’s Throwback menu this past March, the one-of-a-kind customer favorites will now become permanent menu items.

These new additions come on the heels of Native Buffalo Fries as they continue to be a successful menu item after their launch in March. Native Buffalo Fries offer a unique take on Native’s signature seasoned fries and chicken strippers – an item that is the first of its kind to casual dining restaurants in the chicken wing sector of Arizona.

“Our Throwback Menu received such enthusiasm from Native guests – old and new, that it was a no-brainer to include these Native legacy items on our new menu,” Chaon says. “We want our food to speak for the thoughtfulness that Native puts into creating a menu that best serves our guests.”

Native Grill & Wings (or, “Native,” as the regulars called it) focuses on food and being family-friendly unlike competitors such as Hooters, Twin Peaks and Buffalo Wild Wings. The polished sports grill proudly offers 20 wing flavors – from Strawberry Hot to Ancho Chile Lime, Asian Garlic to Honey Chipotle – that guests can order by the individual wing, as well as an extensive menu of burgers, sandwiches, salads and more. Most of the sauces and rubs can be used to customize other menu items.

The restaurants are divided into a bar and restaurant, with approximately 30-40 flat screen TVs throughout, offering sports coverage for families and serious fans, and a customer base spanning all generations – baby boomers, Generation Xers and Millennials.